Hungary calls her – this curious, displaced, skinny English girl
pulls her under its blanket of Cold War snow
draws her to its jealous magyar breast
and suffocates her.
Just before the wall comes down,
just before the end.
And always she is struggling here,
in the bone shattering winter – city statues wrapped against the crack of cold,
and the stifling heat of an East European summer.
Such melancholy in that fresh, bright, cherry blossom spring.
How she longs to be in England –
on those dirty London streets,
where people know her name
and say it in a language that is forever hers.
Clear the call to leave:
but her heart is split in two.
And when she does go home
in that hot, hot summer of 1989
when the borders are flung open – and the West says “Come!”-
and the people sing their long lost songs of liberty,
it is too late for her, too late.
And she is homesick once again,
for a place relinquished,
for a man who has refused her,
for a country – harsh and full of paradox –
its language a mystery and a music forever on her tongue,
where she will always be on the outside, looking in:
nose pressed to the sash window,
as the heavy wooden blind falls shut.
Frontier to a vanished freedom – no longer to be crossed, or found.
This poem was inspired by a call for submissions to an international anthology on the theme of HEIMAT or HOMELAND, by a group of German writers in Dortmund, which is twinned with my home city of Leeds, UK . The project got me thinking, right away, about my long connection with Hungary, and how I feel pulled – both towards and away – from this home-that-is-not-my-home! After the intense experience of my youth, encapsulated above, I was absent from the country for the next 20 years. But when I returned, in 2009, the feeling for the place was just as strong, and now I study the language seriously, have a wonderful circle of friends there, and return every year. Nothing is quite so powerful in my mind and heart, however, as the memory of those first days, in 1988 and 1989: spent in a country locked behind the Iron Curtain, yet open, warm and loving, to a stranger in their midst. Magyarország, annyira szeretlek.